I am taking this is opportunity to provide the Education Ambassadors a good news story about one high school in the North-West which had sufficient support from parents, staff and community to be confident in taking the chance to extend to Years 11 and 12. The decision was backed by the School Association Committee, of which I am the Chairperson. While the staff were busy playing their part in the process, the School Association saw the opportunity to invite community and business organisations to support some Pioneer Scholarships. These would act as incentivised encouragement and an eventual reward for some of the first group of 11/12 pioneer students to not only complete those two years at their school but to also attain a TCE at the end. The school is Ulverstone High School, and nine students successfully applied for the UHS Pioneer Scholarships worth $1000 each, a unique initiative for a unique school!
Mid 2017, this group were asked to reflect on their progress towards their personal goals, to provide their sponsors with an insight into their educational and personal experiences at that point in the year. These reports were duly sent to the sponsors, and, later, a de-personalised, amalgamated report was sent to the Minister and the Secretary of Education for their information. Current retention in the whole 11/12 cohort is several percentage points above the state average.
As an Education Ambassador, I was asked if this story could be shared with other Ambassadors, especially those whose local high schools are contemplating extending too, and this is an adapted version of the report to the Minister.
‘Ulverstone High School has embraced the extension project to provide for years 11 and 12 from 2017 onwards. I am writing to you now to give you some feedback about how this is going from the students’ point of view, based upon the mid-year personal reports created by our UHS Pioneer Scholarship holders. The main purpose of these reports was to provide an update to their scholarship sponsors and to the School Association Committee. However, the evidence of thoughtful self-reflection, and of goal-setting and achievement from this group provides a window on the growing maturity and progress of all UHS senior pioneer students. While so much of the emphasis on educational outcomes is quantitative, it was our view that you would appreciate receiving some qualitative feedback from students who are clearly embracing their challenges and are happy to be attending UHS.
This, then, is my precis of the students’ reports, abbreviated and de-personalised, to provide a flavour of their overall content, which I hope you will find interesting and reassure you of the wisdom of your decision to support UHS in its extension project.
The students were asked to discuss the goals they set themselves and how they were progressing:
‘Heading into year 11 for me was a huge step as I was unsure of what my future ambitions would be. My academic goals this year were to study several pre-tertiary subjects so that I would have the knowledge to go to university in the future if I would like to. Year 11 has been a lot different from high school especially with the workload, which requires a lot of homework and use of your free time. For me it was a challenge to adjust to this work load as it was nothing like what I had experienced before. The Mid-year exam period was a very stressful time of the year however I studied hard and was successful in passing all of my exams.’
‘My goal was to do well in my schoolwork, and if I was not succeeding well in that area to always accept help from my teachers and peers. After 2 terms of college at Ulverstone High School, I believe that I am doing an amazing job compared to my efforts in grade 11 last year, and compared to my high school years.’
‘Heading into year 11 at Ulverstone High I was anxious about the experiences I would come across. The best way to describe me was a “hot mess”. In particular I was anxious about friendships, the work load and the commitment level required in Year 11 and 12. At the beginning of the year I set both academic and personal goals, my personal goals this year included to stay focused, keep my mental health under control and stay calm in challenging times. My academic goal at the start of the year was to do well in my mid-year exams. Now having got through the mid-year exam is to pass the end of year exam and be more prepared than I was for the mid-year.’
‘My main goal for school this year was to achieve a higher grade in Maths, as I didn’t achieve a grade I was happy with last year. Being a little over half way through the year, I have already noticed improvement in both my grades and understanding of the Maths we have been working on and I am pleased that I set this goal for myself. Having the opportunity to stay at Ulverstone High School is certainly a highlight of mine this year, especially now with the redevelopment for years 11 and 12. It has been a wonderful and pleasant environment to work and spend time in both during class time and break time.’
‘At the beginning of the year, I had my personal and academic goals set as one goal and that was to try my hardest to achieve the greatest possible result I could and pass all my classes with hopefully flying colours. The highlight of my year has been seeing my first ever A’s on my work which is a much better results than my D’s and C’s in grade 10 last year. Another highlight has been getting 100% in my attendance and that I am passing all of my classes.’
‘At the start of the year I wanted to do well in Maths and English as they were my two main academic classes. I chose to aim towards improving in Maths because over the last few years I just couldn’t understand it. However, this year my grades have improved dramatically in my Maths class In the year 11 and 12 common area anyone who spends their study breaks in there is there to learn and focus so the space is quiet and always full of people who are there to help if you need help with any school work.’
‘Starting Year 11 at Ulverstone High School was exciting. Being part of the first group of students to move to Year 11 & 12 at Ulverstone High was something I looked forward to. I very much enjoy Art and I have a passion for drawing and sketching. I do a lot of Anime and Manga drawings, so this year my goal was to try and create more realistic styled artwork. I’m pleased to say that I am achieving these goals and have really enjoyed exploring new areas of art and seeing my realistic drawings improve. Maths has been a subject I’ve always struggled with and my aim was to apply myself to this class to prove to myself I can do better. This is an ongoing challenge; however, I have been seeing some positives and that gives me confidence that I can achieve a good result at the end of this year.’
‘Balancing my school work and study along with my part time job, personal relationships and commitments has been difficult at times throughout the year when I had such a heavy workload, however, I have found alternative ways to keep a balance between these important aspects. I occasionally stay after school hours to study or complete assessment tasks as I work better in the school environment and I really enjoy being able to use the new 11 and 12 area. I also organise to study with my peers from some of my classes to ensure I am understanding the subjects, improving my knowledge and also to assist others if they are having trouble.’
The students were asked to identify any highlights including out of school activities:
‘Highlights of the year so far would have to be my confidence improving and I’m seeing this reflected in my school work, sport and personal life. I have overcome some personal blocks this year and I’m really looking forward to achieving more in all areas. Starting my business has also been a major highlight for me and I’m excited to grow this further. I’m hoping at the end of this year to be able to expand my goals and set new ones for Year 12.’
‘The biggest setback this year was breaking my wrist while on a school trip to Melbourne. It affected my schoolwork especially Dance, employment as well as my hobbies Hip-Hop and Drama. From this experience, I learned that life is full of surprises both good and bad.’
‘The highlight of my year has been seeing my first ever A’s on my work which is a much better results than my D’s and C’s in grade 10 last year. Another highlight has been getting 100% in my attendance and that I am passing all of my classes.’
‘One highlight is that I will always be involved in putting together the school magazine which I have been involved in previous years and highly enjoyed.’
‘So far this year my highlights have been getting chosen for the Pioneer scholarship and getting my first car. My scholarship funds have helped me towards buying my Nissan Pulsar. My biggest setback so far this year was failing my mid-year exam, which has been both a learning curve and learning experience for me. From failing my mid-year exam I have learnt that for the end of year exams I need to be more prepared and start studying a lot earlier than I did for mid-years.’
‘I would like to thank everyone involved in picking me as a sponsor because the confidence I have gained in just being chosen is something that will stay with me for a long time.’
‘There have been many highlights this year, one being part of the first Year 11s at Ulverstone High School which has been very exciting as it will be something I can look back on in future and will be proud of. ‘
‘I have encountered numerous successes this year, which include mainly keeping up to date and handing in work I missed when I was away from school [illness] which was good resilience to catch and keep up with my workload.’
My own reaction to these students’ reports was one of pride for our School, and gratitude for all the very committed staff engaged in assisting our Year 11s and 12s get that bit closer to experiencing success and fulfilment in their lives in a familiar and supportive space, elements well understood and appreciated by our senior pioneer students. Perhaps after reading this, you will agree.’
By Rena Henderson, Chairperson, Ulverstone High School Association